- Posted by Johanna on May 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
Noted creator Mark Waid has posted at his blog the following:
I’m okay with torrenters and “pirates” sharing INSUFFERABLE. Not just because, what the hell, it’s free anyway, Mr. Cynic…my hand to God, even if we were charging for it, I’d still be happy because the exposure and promotion is worth more to me at this point than dollars and cents. But more than that…more than that…after having been hip-deep in the research for the past three years, I have seen zero conclusive evidence that, on the whole, “piracy” removes more money from the system than it adds to it. Are there readers who would be buying my print comics who download them for free instead? Sure. Are there, conversely, potential readers who download one of my print comics, sample it, and then become a paying customer if they have access to ensuing print copies? Absolutely, and I’ve personally sold books to hundreds of them at store signings and conventions. Do the latter outweigh the former? (a) I don’t care, because I can’t stop the former, and (b) I believe, if you build up enough of a loyal fanbase, that potential exists; certainly, every meaningful* study undertaken on how piracy affects CD sales, DVD sales, etc. shows repeatedly that “pirated” content of quality material can actually act as an effective marketing tool and lead to increased sales.
I apologize for quoting so much of his post — although there’s a lot more at the site — but it sums up the current situation so well. Creators can’t stop piracy, and those who accept that and use comic sharing to their advantage are those who are best going to survive in this brave new world.
In a time where there are plenty of free comic reads available as webcomics, from people who are either A) planning to make money in other ways (ads, merchandise, appearances) than old-fashioned publishing or B) haven’t thought it through and are just enjoying having readers, your enemy is not pirates. Your enemy is ignorance, those people who don’t know who you are or what you do or whether your work is worth reading.
Mark Waid took the smart approach — he saw the sharing as an indication that there was an audience that wasn’t being served. That would be the group that wanted to read the comic offline. So he started providing the product they want. He’s now making his comic available both for reading online AND as a downloadable CBZ or PDF that sends readers straight back to his Thrillbent website.
That’s a much smarter response than getting outraged and pissy about “how dare they do something with my work I didn’t allow them to?” I’ve seen creators take their approach and then, even worse, take down their comics, leaving the pirate versions as the only option. That’s ceding the market to the filesharers instead of realizing they indicate a potential new audience.